The end of the year is approaching and with it the typical list of purposes for 2018. Within that wish list, in a lot of cases we will find old acquaintances like “go to the gym”, “lose weight”, “quit smoking”. These are purposes that are usually abandoned soon after they are started, or that are not even tried to be fulfilled.

The reason for this? There may be many, but if we leave excuses aside we find that one of the biggest obstacles is the lack of will power .

This can be difficult to maintain, given that day-to-day situations abound that can lead us to become discouraged and stop making an effort. Therefore, in this article we are going to talk about how to have more willpower.

The importance of willpower

All or almost all of us know or have an idea about what will power is, and it is easy to find some example of this capacity or its absence. But in order to improve the understanding of what we are proposing to increase, it is useful to make a brief definition of the concept we are talking about.

Will power is understood as that capacity or ability to pursue a concrete objective despite the existence of obstacles , difficulties and distractions. It is not a matter of knowing how to reach the objective itself, but of persisting in the will to achieve it in spite of the fact that we may not know how to face the difficulties that prevent us from reaching it. We would then be faced with the idea of not giving in to our pretensions, not giving up and persevering even if we do not see immediate results.

Will power often correlates positively with the capacity for delayed gratification: people who are able to postpone obtaining a gratification in order to be rewarded later with something that motivates them especially.

Let’s look at the examples given in the first paragraph of this article: losing weight or going to the gym. The objective is something desirable and rewarding for the person who sets it as a goal, but it requires a continuous effort over a period of time that can be relatively long. And in between there will be continuous temptations in the form of food, drink, plans or obstacles such as tiredness and even suffering.

The same is true for those who want to stop smoking: they know it is something they want to stop, but taking a cigarette gives them immediate satisfaction. Only those people who are able to resist the temptation to get an immediate boost to achieve their goal will be able to persist until they reach their goal (even if they may have some occasional fall).

Tips for more willpower

Will power, in short, is an important skill that is highly valued socially, personally, and also in the work and academic environment. However, it is not something that appears out of nowhere, but rather a psychological ability that is acquired and strengthened throughout life .

In this sense, we can carry out different activities to improve willpower. Some strategies and actions that can help us are the following.

1. Propose clear objectives

One of the possible reasons for not being able to maintain the will power to do something is the lack of knowledge and security in what we want . Proposing clear objectives and knowing how to carry them out is fundamental and helps us to generate enough motivation and will power to pursue them.

2. Be realistic

Another major problem most people have is that they want immediate and unrealistic results. I want to lose 15 kilos in a month or I want to stop doing something I’ve been doing for the last ten years in a moment. People who already have a great deal of willpower at their base could achieve this , but most people should bear in mind that in order to achieve something there are usually no shortcuts and that it requires a continuous and prolonged effort over time. Take into account previous experiences and adjust your expectations regarding what it may cost you to achieve your goal.

3. Step by step: divide tasks into sub-tasks

Something very useful to achieve your goals and at the same time strengthen your will power is to divide your goal into different steps, phases or sub-tasks . Identify and create short and medium term objectives that will allow you to reach your final goal.

4. Establish a planing

The opposite of the previous point can also be a problem: setting an objective to be fulfilled in an undetermined period of time can lead us to procrastinate and do nothing. That is why it is highly advisable to establish a previous planning of the time we are going to dedicate to a concrete objective and to make an effort to fulfill it. In this way we will advance in our objective, and the knowledge of this fact will reinforce the motivation to continue .

5. Keep a record

In relation to the previous point, another of the means that can facilitate the strengthening of our will power and the achievement of our goals is to carry out a record of our activity, so that we can assess our achievements and progress .

6. Give yourself small rewards

Achieving something in one go is very complicated. Self-gratification as we move forward in achieving objectives (as long as this self-gratification does not run counter to the ultimate goal itself) can serve to preserve and strengthen our motivation.

7. Don’t do it all at once

We all have many goals in life. However, if we aim to find a partner, play sports, be more productive at work, lose weight, sign up for a cooking course and do three masters and two doctorates we will end up doing nothing or getting exhausted. We must bear in mind that we cannot do everything at once . And even less so if what we are trying to do is train our will power: the most recommendable and healthy thing is to identify one element at a time and focus on it.

8. Meditation

The practice of meditation contributes greatly to strengthening will power, relativizing the importance of things and seeing the world from a more focused perspective. In fact, the regular practice of meditation has been shown to decrease stress levels and even contributes to improving the synaptic connectivity of brain regions, such as the prefrontal.

9. Exhibition

One of the ways to train will power is precisely to expose oneself to stimuli that test it. It is a matter of encouraging us to resist temptation. To do this, it can be useful to start by exposing ourselves to situations that, although they may tempt us, do not generate an immediate and irresistible need.

It is possible to be directly exposed to the elements that we find most difficult to resist, but with this we also risk not being able to endure it and favour that more than increasing willpower it decreases. If applied correctly and achieved, this method also helps us to improve our sense of competence and self-efficacy , which can also contribute to increasing self-esteem.

10. Give positive self-instruction

Generally, in doing anything, various self-talk comes to mind regarding what to do and how.

Often, these self-instructions include mental and emotional content and expectations about the outcome (e.g., whether we will do well or badly, whether we will achieve our goal or not, etc.). Trying to make these instructions positive and include messages that reinforce and consider positively one’s own capacity can make us feel more capable in the long run and increase will power.

11. Find a role model

One way to strengthen your will power is to inspire yourself in people you appreciate and admire . Learn about them and their way of doing things and achieving their goals. Observing the presence of great willpower can help us try to imitate it and strengthen our own.

12. Relativizes and accepts falls

No matter how much will power we have, we can all fall at some point when we forget our goal or have a moment of weakness when we do the opposite of what we intend.

This can lead us to blame ourselves , to feel unqualified and finally to become unmotivated and to give up. A good idea to increase our willpower is, although it may seem contradictory, to accept that we may fail and have some moments of weakness. However, we should not overindulge ourselves: it is a matter of not crushing ourselves if a fall occurs, not just letting it happen.

13. Best accompanied

Maintaining motivation and will power to achieve a goal is difficult. Receiving external support in the process or setting a shared goal makes it easier to fall into temptation. On the other hand, also depends on one’s attitude : if someone continuously tempts you to abandon your goal it will become a challenge to your willpower.

14. Exercise

What for many people is a goal to achieve can also help us increase the will power to do others. Tightening and relaxing muscles can help us strengthen not only our body but also our mind, releasing endorphins and improving our sense of competence . In addition, it requires an effort that diverts some of our attention away from possible temptation.